Newcastle Vikings’ handball teams both got their new English Regional League North seasons off to a winning start last weekend.
The Vikings ladies travelled across to Chester’s Northgate Arena on the Wirral on Sunday to play a Peninsula side that had dropped down from the Premier Handball League at the end of last season. Missing several regular players for this opening fixture, Newcastle were forced to play two wingers in the back-court half positions, and a usual line player on the wing, but that didn’t phase them and perhaps brought out an even greater determination.
Peninsula netted first, but Marie Thompson quickly broke through to equalise from left half before centre Ed Ogbee fired in from the back-court to put the Vikings in front. Newcastle then piled on the pressure to open out a five-goal lead as Maria Jose Gonzalez found the top corner from the left wing, half players Blessing Ogbee and Thompson notched up first-half hat-tricks and centre Maren Liane came on to score a brace of her own. At the other end of the court, while Peninsula did pull a couple of goals back, the Vikings were brilliantly solid in defence, consistently closing down the home side’s attacking plays to go into the half-time break 7-10 up.
The second half saw Thompson, Gonzalez and the Ogbee sisters stretch Newcastle’s advantage to seven, before right-winger Katerina Gibson also beat the keeper to add her name to the scoresheet. Vikings goalkeeper Andrea King continued to back up her tight defence line with several good stops, including a penalty save in a Kafeneon player-of-the-match display, as the Vikings teamed up to stifle the threat of 6-goal centre Natalie Black and restrict an increasingly frustrated Peninsula side to just four second-half goals. Thompson and Blessing Ogbee on a fast-break each added their fifth goals of the game as Newcastle rounded off a fine all-round display to run out clear 11-17 winners.
The previous day, the Vikings men had travelled to take on Warrington Wolves II, but technical issues at the match venue ultimately meant that hosts Wolves had to forfeit the match, gifting Newcastle a default 0-10 away victory. A friendly practice game was nevertheless played, which Warrington won 26-17, but it was the Vikings who gladly came away with the crucial league points.
Newcastle Vikings women: Andrea King (GK), Marie Thompson (5 goals), Katerina Gibson (1), Ed Ogbee (2), Maren Liane (2), Blessing Ogbee (5), Sandra Christke-Lamb (C), Maria Jose Gonzalez (2).